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How to win or lose hundred million dollars in Washington

Luni, 20 februarie 2006, 0:00

Cornel Popa, Lawyer@Tuca&Asociatii

Cornel Popa, the Defense lawyer representing Romanian Government against the American company Noble Venture in a three years trial at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes – ICSID, explained how this institution works in an interview for si

Romania won the legal case in which the American company Noble Ventures sought damages worth 353 million dollars, following the cancellation of the privatization process of Resita steel mill (C.S.R.).

Currently, Popa works for Tuca & Asociatii, founded in 2005 after splitting from the law firm Musat&Asociatii. Romania has been legally represented by the Romanian law firm Musat&Asociatii and the US law firm, White&Case.

Popa explained that Romania can be taken to this international court as part of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (the ICSID Convention) ratified in 1975.

ICSID, based in Washington, was envisaged as an institution specially designed to facilitate the settlement of investment disputes between governments and foreign investors. ICSID provides facilities for the conciliation and arbitration of disputes between member countries and investors who qualify as nationals of other member countries.

The number of cases submitted to the Centre has increased significantly in recent years, from 70 concluded cases by 2002 when Noble Ventures sued Romanian government to 100 pending cases in 2006.

A state gets a trial at ICSID if it joined the Convention and ratified bilateral investments protection bilateral agreements. From this perspective, Romania is a signatory of approximately 90 agreements with EU countries, USA, Canada etc.

Therefore, a Romanian company would address the ICSID only outside Romanian territory, if the country where the case occurred is part of the Convention. However, there are also other cases of Romanian companies registered abroad addressing ICSID, i.e. Rompetrol, registered in Holland; European Drinks of whose owners hold Swedish citizenship.

Both parties of the trial make proposals for the arbitrators and the President of the Tribunal who must not belong to one of the states involved in the trial. The state is represented by a law firm on behalf of the Government.

The Romanian Finance Ministry organized biddings for law firms that could represent Romania at ICSID. The contract following the selection allows the Government to close a deal with any of the firms chosen. The law firm is selected following a thorough bidding.

Popa’s law firm came with the best technical and financial offer and won the EDF case, the former exclusive provider of duty free services filing a complaint against Romania. The case is currently pending at ICSID. It is difficult for a small firm to be selected for missions of this extent.

Due to Popa's firm contribution, the Romanian state settled in friendly terms litigation with the Polish company Pol Am Pack, which sought ten million dollars damages, within the framework of a bilateral agreement between the two states.

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